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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Phillips Packing Company Strike of 1937: Black and White Together on the Picket Lines

The next time you drive through Cambridge, Maryland along Route 50, take a good look behind the Wawa convenience store, toward Dorchester Avenue and the western horizon. The towering pair of old smokestacks there have some faded lettering on them, “PPCO,” for Phillips Packing Company. This year marks the 80th anniversary of a big strike there that made headlines around the country back in 1937.

Cambridge was a one-horse town in those days. Phillips Packing Company was the horse. More than 2,000 people worked for the firm, which was competing with Campbell’s for the top spot in the canned food sector in the whole country. That was nearly a quarter of the town’s population at the time.

Most every small business in town—from stores and restaurants to car mechanics and milkmen—relied on the income those workers got from Phillips to makes their own ends meet. Out in the surrounding countryside, thousands more farm owners and their workers depended on Phillips to buy their vegetables.


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